The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a case of Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act or FCRA violation in the Kerala government’s Life Mission housing project for the poor and homeless people. The agency will probe the alleged discrepancies in the project, mainly whether the Kerala government violated the FCRA by accepting funds from Emirates Red Crescent, a United Arab Emirates-based NGO affiliated to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The CBI has booked Santhosh Eapen of Unitac Builders and Developers, the firm that bagged the contract of the housing project in Wadakkanchery, Thrissur. The agency also carried out searches at his office and residence in Kochi.
This comes after Ramesh Chennithala, the Leader of Opposition in Kerala, had demanded a CBI inquiry into the matter.
The Kerala government had earlier said that it had not sought the nod of the Union government while accepting funds from the UAE-based organisation for building apartment complexes under the project.
The Congress called out the controversies and allegations against the Pinarayi Vijayan government after it surfaced that a key accused in the controversial gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh, had accepted commission as part of the project. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) seized Rs 1 crore after it raided the bank locker of Swapna Suresh, who is also a former staff of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. She had claimed that she had received the amount as commission from the Unitac Builder as part of the Life Mission project.
The Opposition has alleged that there was corruption involved in the selection of the contractor Unitac Builders and that Swapna received a commission from them for securing the contract.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Red Crescent, agreeing to provide Rs 20 crore as funds towards the Life Mission project.
In August, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had sought the details of the MoU signed between the Kerala government and the Emirates Red Crescent. With CBI onboard, this is the second central agency that is probing the allegations related to Life Mission, a pet project of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government.
Two days ago, with pressure mounting from Opposition parties, the Kerala government ordered a probe into the issue by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB). But Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala had called out the order and asked how the Vigilance could conduct an effective probe in a matter that involves a foreign country. Chennithala had demanded a CBI probe in the matter.